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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
April 12, 2012

Genetics May Play a Role in Our Obesity Problems

Research shows that two of our genes may be responsible for our poor eating habits. By Jennifer Chan

Have you ever wondered why some people tend to consume more fatty foods than others? According to a study published in the Journal of Food Science, the answer lies in two of our genes—the TAS2R38 and the CD36. These genes are said to affect the way we taste certain foods. While experts have already identified texture as an important component in our enjoyment of fatty foods, it is only in recent times that they have started exploring the implications of the way fat tastes in our mouths. 

Focusing their study on 300 African-American participants, researchers tried to find out whether genes really do have a say in how much fat we consume. First, they took note of the participants’ food preferences and the status of their CD36—a gene dubbed as a possible fat receptor. Based on the results, 21 percent of the volunteers appeared to have a specific genetic variant associated with preferences for added fats and oils.

Another gene—the TAS2R38—serves as a receptor of bitter compounds. According to research, 70 percent of American adults and children are tasters of the compound, while 30 percent are non-tasters. Compared to tasters, non-tasters reportedly have a harder time detecting the presence of fat in their foods because they have fewer taste buds. This then prompts them to consume more of fatty food as a result. Of course, the lack of taste buds isn’t wholly responsible for obesity. Lack of exercise and overeating in general will eventually lead to obesity.

Understanding that our genes may be making it challenging for us to taste fat in our foods may make us more aware of each bite we take. Are we consuming just the right amount of fat, or are we simply compensating for what our taste buds can’t detect?

(Photo by Kid Paparazzi via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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